60 Years of CAD Infographic: The History of CAD since 1957


The History of CAD

Infographic : Alexis Barnhorn / Content Research: Laura Caudill

The computer-aided design landscape has been shifting and evolving for 60 years and will continue for 60 more. Is your digital catalog future-proof?


60 years ago, the “Father of CAD,” Dr. Patrick Hanratty created the first numerical control system, which would later become Computer Aided Design or CAD. The precision, versatility, and edit-ability of CAD designs revolutionized the engineering, architecture and manufacturing landscape. The importance of CAD cannot be understated.

See the Full-Size Image

While the History of CAD closely parallels the “History of the Computer,” there have been many innovations and iterations along the way. With its introduction in 1957, it was still decades ahead of small and affordable computers which could run the software. Pencil and paper would remain the primary way “draftsman” would create designs for another 30 years. But the groundwork was laid for things to come, CAD software would a fundamental tool for nearly every industry.

History of CAD

Learn how you can provide CAD to your customers online in 150+ CAD formats and versions!


The idea of CAD has grown from simple 2D designs into complex, multi-layered 3D structures with kinematic-movement and detailed meta-data. Similarly, the CADENAS digital catalog has paralleled innovations in the CAD industry. The eCATALOG solutions platform is continually evolving to provide native formats as soon as they are available, often times before they are publicly available. Whether you launch your CADENAS eCATALOG in 2001, 2017 or 2027 all of the CAD models you provide your clients will remain backward compatible and “future-proof.”

History of CAD


History of CAD Highlights:

PRONTO 1957 Built by Patrick Hanratty, this was the first commercial numerical-control programming system, sparked everything that is CAD.


Sketchpad 1960 Built by Ivan Sutherland, this was the first to ever use a total graphic user interface, users wrote with a light pen on an x-y pointer display, let users constrain properties in a drawing, created the use of “objects” and “instances”.




1971 Built by Patrick Hanratty, this interactive graphic design, drafting and manufacturing system was written in Fortran and designed to work on virtually every machine, a huge hit that went on to be updated to work on 16 and 32-bit computers, today 80% of CAD programs can be traced back to the roots of ADAM.


IGES 1980 Lets users transfer their 3D designs between CAD software programs, once STEP was released IGES did not get updated anymore, on its way out but still accepted in many places.


CATIA 1981 by Dassault Systemes – Multi platform CAD software, still in use today.


AutoCAD 1982 by Autodesk, this was the first 2D design CAD software made for PCs instead of mainframe computers or minicomputers.


Pro/Engineer 1987 Now PTC Creo, this was the first mainstream CAD program that took the ideas of Sketchpad (Interactive, easy to use, fast) and made it come to life, based on solid models, history-based features, and the use of constraints, this was a huge turn in  CAD history because it completely knocked out any competition, others were written in Fortran and assembler this was written in UNIX’s X-Windows which made it faster and user friendly.


Autodesk AutoCAD R13 1994 Made the Autodesk program 3D compatible.


STEP 1994 Took over from IGES as the new format to use when transferring 3D models from one to another, 1994 was the initial release of STEP that made it an international standard for models, still the most used format.


SolidWorks 95 1995 by Dassault Systemes – Another software that succeeded in ease of use, allowed more engineers than ever to take advantage of 3D CAD technology.


Solid Edge 1995 by Siemens Made as a PLM software (Product Lifecycle Management), functions on Windows, provides solid modeling, assembly modeling, and 2D orthographic view, response to the success of SolidWorks.


Autodesk Inventor 1999 Autodesk’s new direction, tried to be more intuitive and simple, also allowed the creation of complex assemblies in record time, still in use, really upped the game in the CAD world.


Autodesk 360 2012 Moved CAD to the cloud.


Get the Free eBook

See how the world’s top manufacturers sell more products by creating an exceptional digital customer experience.

The following two tabs change content below.

Adam Beck

Director of Marketing at CADENAS PARTsolutions | A graduate of the Richard Farmer School of Business Marketing at Miami University in Oxford Ohio, Adam has years of experience in marketing and design for a variety of industries. He enjoys many outlets for creativity including working on custom cars and guitars. He’s also a fan of Formula1 racing and the Cincinnati Bengals. Adam currently lives in Ohio with his wife Stephanie, daughter Nora and son Otto.